By Tom Hutchinson

Days before the digital Judgement Day, right in the midst of the headline panic, a million emails were being sent out across the UK every minute.

The sun has long since rose on the new data protection laws, with companies across the country now valuing the consumer e-mail more than ever.

“Can we keep your email for business and marketing use?”

Businesses have had now had to rethink their promotional strategies to make sure that their consumer’s properly consent to have their data used.

When GDPR was looming at the backend of May 2018, it was not uncommon for businesses to take the initiative and offer exclusive discounts & prizes for those that provided them with their sacred email.

Pre-GDPR Acquisition

When GDPR was just around the corner, there was a lot of general confusion amongst businesses about what to include in their emails to customers. What was consent? How much consent did the consumer have to give?

Many went with the standard, albeit not the most eye-catching, subject line: “We’ve updated our Privacy Policy.”

Other companies were panicking and declaring “GDPR IS ALMOST UPON US!” As if it were the end of all business across the EU.

Mistakes were made from many different firms. Many convinced themselves that they were so confused about the new laws that they went with an absolute clear-cut confirmation email, asking users to clearly consent: Yes, keep me signed on.

The Information Commissioner’s Office describes consent as:

Any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

Freely given consent is that which gives the user choice beforehand. If there is no choice, the consent is invalid.

However, new GDPR laws do not affect any businesses who have already acquired customer data through this method (clear consent – via a checkbox). Instead, firms that had simply acquired customer’s data without express consent were the ones that should have been worried. (“If you continue, you agree for us to use your data”).

Post-GDPR Acquisition

After the laws were set in stone, every marketing department has been hard at work trying to come up with ingenious ways in which to acquire a customer’s email.

We’re going to use the Labour Party as an example from the United Kingdom.

This promotion, designed to acquire membership support and therefore an email address, expertly links the party’s NHS connection with the user’s provided information: give us your data and we will tell you which number baby you were.

It is a data-backed promotion that drives intrigue, so users are instantly curious to find out more. However, the promotion asks for your date of birth first for the initial intrigue. If you want to find it out your number, you need to provide them with your email.

Labour could tell this information with just the user’s birth details. However, if they want access to this interesting bit of data, the user needs to exchange their valuable data in return. You cannot skip the box marked ‘email’.

Another Labour party example is their “How Commons is Your Name?” promotion.

Again, utilising their special access to relevant data, the Labour party can now tell you how many Members of Parliament have had your name throughout history.

It’s a shrewd way of keeping in line with their policies on representation: has there not been anyone in Parliament with your name? You can find out here. Don’t see your name in the history of British politics? You may feel inclined to do something about that.

Labour has made sure that you cannot access this tool without providing your email-address.

Time to Utilise Promotional Strategies

Three months have now passed since the new GDPR laws were set in stone.

Half of companies across Britain still don’t know how, when or where to ask for consent.

Today, there are frequent examples of coming across websites that will not allow you further access unless you agree to their privacy policy and cookie policy. They are all terrified of the imposing fines should they breach this all-encompassing law.

These are still grey areas. It is still not crystal clear in this regard of what you can get in trouble for.

If you are found guilty of breaking data laws, the fines can reach up to £20m. More worryingly for larger companies, you can also be fined up to 4% of your annual global turnover.

When the business world gets its head around GDPR, be prepared to see a lot less privacy policy updates and a lot more investment into promotional campaigns for acquiring emails. As a business, you need to take this challenge head on.

What businesses should focus on is this: if the customer clicks through, having read a statement about giving their consent or being contacted for marketing purposes, then they can be freely contacted.

The value of the customer email has increased exponentially.

It’s time you utilised more promotions to acquire it.